Saif Ali Khan on how Sacred Games boosted the confidence of filmmakers in him, and how he will continue to reinvent himself
Saif Ali Khan
Your last theatrical release, Kaalakaandi (2017), and your upcoming film, Baazaar, both were delayed. Does this affect you as an actor?
It depends on why a film is delayed. In the past, there have been instances of films with bigger actors not releasing at all, and I would wonder why. In my case, Kaalakaandi was a low budget experiment and they had to find the right release date. There was also a discussion about releasing it directly on Netflix. Even for Baazaar, they were looking for the perfect time to showcase it. If someone says that my last few films haven’t done well and hence the next can’t be released, I would feel bad, but that was never the case.
But that was the word in the trade circuit. It was only after the success of Sacred Games, that makers decided to come out with the film.
I wish the situation was different and my films had worked, but what can I do about it? I would be more than satisfied if some of my recent releases would’ve done well [laughs]. But, by nature, I am happy and content. Over the years, I’ve become a better actor because I’ve realised that my energy and confidence does not depend on a Friday verdict. I know my job and over time have understood it better. I believe, that there is certain amount of karma in my profession. If you are good at your work, looking great and performing well, at some point of time, everything has to work out.
Did you ever lose confidence when your films weren’t doing well at the box office?
Not when it comes to doing my job. I’ve been around in the industry for many years and it has never been a smooth sail. I’ve had my share of ups and downs and I am generally a confident person. The kind of experiences I’ve had in my life, the education and awareness I received through reading has always given me the confidence to talk to anyone. At the same time, I am not ashamed to admit that I am often clueless. My mother [Sharmila Tagore] tells me that my father [Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi] was the most confident man she had ever met. I’d like to believe that I’ve inherited that quality. I have always been a late bloomer. So, I am hopeful that things will eventually fall in place. I want to look like Anil Kapoor and work as long as Amitabh Bachchan and just keep getting better [smiles].
So what really changed with Sacred Games?
It has given me a sense of validation. We were talking about confidence and it also comes from working with like-minded people, understanding the craft and not getting stuck in the past [successes of Dil Chahta Hai and Omkara]. It constantly changes and now, I am the guy from Sacred Games. I feel on top of my game. The other day I was telling my manager that I am reading books on acting, approaching the craft differently and trying a lot of new things — people have reacted positively towards it. Many people take courses to improve their skills, but as an actor, it was something new for me. I was studying and applying my techniques. There are so many actors in that set up and they are really good at their job. Working with them has improved my acting chops.
With the on-going #MeToo movement, reports suggest that the second season of Sacred Games may not happen.
Personally, I don’t think there should be any issue because Netflix takes these kinds of situations seriously. They will find the right way forward. House Of Cards still got made with changes to the cast. So, I am hoping we will too by taking the necessary step.
At the same time, you have four films [Hunter, Taanaji: The Unsung Warrior, Go Goa Gone sequel and Jawani Janeman] in various stages of filmmaking. Do you feel secure now?
I don’t know about feeling secure, but I am working with some top class directors. Anurag Basu and Sriram Raghavan have both offered me films. So, if my last few releases haven’t worked, then why are they approaching me with work? These directors give me a lot of confidence because they don’t judge based a few setbacks. Fortunately or unfortunately, I don’t like to live in a paranoid universe. If not films there will be something else to do. I could even be managing a hotel in Pataudi. I am not scared of the future.
And how do you not fret about the future?
You must have the ability to appreciate things and that is something I learnt from a friend. He always tells me to celebrate life. I guess the most basic thing is to celebrate a weekend. My whole life is on my phone with the collection of photos that I have. There are times when I see my photographs with Taimur, or some candid shots of having a drink and chatting with my friends. Then, I also see my look as a Naga Sadhu [Saif’s character in Hunter] and I feel that somewhere I have done a good job. Touchwood, I am satiated because I have never praised myself and I am happy to put myself down and learn again.
Back to production
Saif Ali Khan dissolved his old production house, Illuminati Films, with Dinesh Vijan (their last association was Happy Ending in 2014) and went back into production with his new company, Black Knight Films. He says, “The thought process is that someone should look after me. We are planning to create a business model that will look after my career, be it a big or small budget film that can take care of my career rather than to expect calls from YashRaj or Dharma Productions. I have made films in the past, so why not just carry on with it? I don’t want other people to look out for me.”